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IN SHORT: T'ain't funny, Magoo.
Cranky loved Mr. Magoo cartoons when he was a kid. He admits that one of his guilty pleasures are Leslie Nielsen comedy flix, from Airplane through Naked Gun 1, 2 and 33 1/3. So here comes the live action Mr. Magoo, co-written by Naked Gun alumnus Pat Proft. Cranky had high hopes.
This is the sound of high hopes: Thud.
For an old fogey like Cranky, you could count the number of significant laughs on the fingers of one hand. For the kidlets in the audience, it was close to an hour before there were any significant squeals of delight. It isn't as though Leslie Nielsen, as Magoo, and arch nemesis Luanne Le Seur (Kelly Lynch) don't give it the good shot in this flick with a plot suitable for an eight minute cartoon.
The story involves the hunt for a stolen ruby, the Star of Kuristan, which literally falls into Magoo's possession while he's fishing. There's a smart thief (Preston) and a dolt of a thief (Nick Chinlund) out to recover the gem for ace bad guy Austin Cloquet (Malcolm McDowell). There's a somewhat smart CIA man (Ernie Hudson) and a not so smart FBI man (Stephen Tabolowsky) after Magoo, whom they believe to be the thief. Flushing out the cast, who all should be flushed, is Matt Keeslar as Magoo's nephew, Waldo, and Jennifer Garner as Waldo's love interest. Smartest cast member is Magoo's dog, Angus, who is always there to make sure the old man doesn't break his neck.
The heck with plots, let's talk stunts, of which there are three good ones. Magoo walks up a paddleboat wheel, snowboards down a mountain on an ironing board (the favorite stunt, according to the kidlets present) and parasails a life raft over a waterfall while wearing a wedding dress.
Actually, that last one is the most in keeping with the spirit of the cartoon. But by the time you get to it, at the end of the flick, you'll probably be wondering why you didn't wait to rent. Or, if you must take the kidlets to a real theater this winter season, Disney's Flubber is still playing in most areas.
Then again, Cranky's niece is 7 and she really, really, really, really, really, really, wants to see it. Cranky told her she'd like it, 'cuz she's about the only demographic that could.
Nielsen's Magoo voice only vaguely resembles the late Jim Backus, who created the character. That's OK, since Nielsen is on the record saying he wasn't out to do an impersonation, just a resemblance. Which would be fine, except that the movie is bookended with an animated Magoo walking through the credits and the voice in the cartoon is dead on. Not fair to Nielsen. Not fair to the audience, either.
Director Stanley Tong, who can make Jackie Chan funny, can direct a mean action sequence. And that he does. But the script is lame and the jokes aren't funny and that's the end of that.
Mr. Magoo is a big disappointment.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Mr. Magoo, he would have paid . . .
For the parents of single digit kidlets only.
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